John Young, a high school math teacher, was working his summer job as a greeter at Fenway Park on Sunday when something offensive caught his attention on the stage where the Zac Brown Band was wrapping up their show.
A person with dwarfism came out on the stage, pretending to be security, and acted out wrestling with someone.
Young, who has finished 17 marathons and was born with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, didn’t find the sketch funny.
He told WCVB he was immediately affected by what he witnessed, recalling the treatment inflicted on him during his childhood.
“I can’t believe this is still happening in 2019,” he told the station. “I think there’s a big difference between laughing with people and laughing at people.”
He wrote about his disappointment on Facebook, following the performance.
“A woman asked me as I was walking to my locker after the concert, ‘HEY! Were you the guy on stage?’” Young wrote of the experience. “The gentleman and I look nothing alike, except for the fact that we both have dwarfism. It was a tasteless gag [and] very cliche.”
Young raised his concerns about the performance by writing letters to the editor in local newspapers and sharing them on Facebook.
“Now, before you start saying things like, ‘Why do we all have to be so PC?’, or ‘Can’t people just take a joke?’, stop and think for a second,” Young wrote. “Take any other person with a different physical or developmental disability and put them in the same spot. Do you think the crowd would have enjoyed the same type of ‘humor’? What about making a joke about someone’s gender, sexual orientation, or race? Would those have been accepted? Pardon the pun, but Zac Brown needs to ‘grow up’.”
Young wrote that his colleagues at Fenway and the Red Sox organization were supportive of him raising concerns about the incident.
“We spoke with John Young about his experience during the concert and offered our support,” Red Sox spokeswoman Zineb Curran told Boston.com. “[On Wednesday], Zac Brown reached out to John and we are pleased that they were able to speak directly.”
In response to a request for comment, a spokesperson for the Zac Brown Band referred Boston.com to Young’s posts on social media.
In a Facebook post, the North Shore teacher said Brown apologized to him on the phone.
“I truly appreciate him reaching out and feel I did a good job explaining my view on the scene he created at his concert,” Young wrote. “I’m happy to say that I didn’t get the usual ‘I’m sorry but….’ or ‘I’m sorry you felt that way’ response. I took his apology as heartfelt and sincere and I think he might look differently on creating the same type of vignette at another one of his shows.”
Following the incident, Little People of America, the largest advocacy group for people with dwarfism, condemned the band’s action as “incredibly degrading.”
“We hope this moment of advocacy sets the example for respectful communication toward a better, more accepting future!” the group wrote after Brown’s reported apology.
Young told the Athletic that in the days since raising concerns about the sketch, he’s heard from “dozens and dozens and dozens of parents with children who have dwarfism.”
He said he’s glad the musician reached out to him to talk.
“Life should not be about gotcha moments,” he wrote on Twitter. “It should be about learning and moving forward.”